We all know the legal world takes a bit more time than most to catch up to technological trends. Sometimes, this is a good thing; developing policy, procedure, and law on the basis of brand new tech that we still don’t fully understand the long-term implications of could have major unintended consequences. Sometimes, it’s perhaps less positive – particularly when we’re relying on standards and technology that’s been rendered obsolete or even archaic by current standards.
Recently, it was announced by the Florida Bar Association that the Board of Governors would be considering a proposed rule amendment that would compel judges to use remote technology in non-evidentiary hearings that last 30 minutes or less – unless they can show good cause why an in-person meeting is necessary.
What does this mean for defendants in Florida criminal cases? Mostly this is a win for everyone.
Some of the anticipated outcomes include:
- Facilitate faster resolution of criminal cases. (The less time attorneys, judges, witnesses, defendants, etc. have to spend getting to-and-from the courthouse, the faster these cases can be resolved. It will also help reduce the need to reschedule due to illness or logistics issues, like traffic jams.)
- Fewer in-person court appearances. For defendants, the less amount of time you have to show up in court – particularly if you’re out on bond – the less of your daily life this is consuming.
- Potentially lower attorneys’ fees. If you are a defendant who has hired a private Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer to represent you in the pending matter, you’re most likely paying by the hour. The less time your attorney must spend in the courtroom (as well as going to-and-from), the lower your fees might be. (It will have a lesser impact on flat-rate services, though attorneys may choose to reduce certain rates accordingly if they’re spending less time commuting to-and-from court for every 30-minute hearing.) Long-term, this could ultimately lead to private defense lawyer services being affordable for more people, and attorneys having the capacity to take on more cases. This is important considering the ACLU‘s assertion that 4 out of 5 criminal defendants currently can’t afford to hire a private criminal defense lawyer, and The New York Time’s deep dive into the reality that a single public defender might be juggling a case load of nearly 200 felony defendants. (Legal scholars agree that high-level felonies carrying sentences of 10+ years should get at least 70 hours each of legal attention and mid-level felonies about 41 hours each. Some public defenders are doing the work of 5 full-time attorneys – so you can imagine how that adversely impacts the outcome of these cases for the defendants.)
In July 2022, the Florida Supreme Court adopted Criminal Procedure Rule 3.116(c), allowing judges upon a court motion or written request to use direct communication technology for one or more parties in attendance at pretrial conferences. The defense lawyer still has to waive the defendant’s physical attendance at these hearings.
But a representative of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers told a writer for the Florida Bar Journal that some circuits and individual judges have completely abandoned the use of remote technology as the risk of the pandemic has faded – and this has been to the detriment of criminal defendants and defense lawyers. In recent oral arguments before the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee, the FACDL argued that rule falls short of adequately facilitating remote tech use in Florida criminal cases.
This new rule would change that.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
RULE PROPOSAL WOULD FACILITATE GREATER USE OF REMOTE TECHNOLOGY IN CERTAIN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS, April 30, 2023, By Jim Ash, Florida Bar News
More Blog Entries:
Why One Man’s Trash is a Florida Prosecutor’s Treasure, March 18, 2023, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog